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“Amazing Experience!”
Review of Brooks Camp

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Brooks Camp
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Level Contributor
33 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“Amazing Experience!”
Reviewed December 4, 2012

Katmai National Park is truly one of a kind and a national treasure! No where else will you be able to see as many bears, as closely, and as safely as at Katmai. And as far as I'm concerned staying in Brooks Camp is the only way to do it. The lodge is overpriced and not worth the hassle. We camped July 18-20 and the salmon run was at its peak. We paid only $16/nt vs over $700 for the lodge. And you need that extra money because flying to Brooks Camp isn't cheap for anyone. That being said it was one of the best travel investments we ever made.

About the bears:
We saw bears everywhere! As many as 8-10 at a time at the falls but also encountered them on the lake and on the trails between camp and the falls themselves. We also were fortunate to see a sow and three spring cubs. We stayed in Alaska for two weeks and this was easily the highlight of our entire trip. Never felt in any danger around the bears. There is a pervasive ranger presence keeping bears and humans at a safe distance from each other and there's so many fish to eat that the bears could really care less about the people. After you arrive you are immediately put through a bear orientation session where you learn the basics about bear-human interaction and how to stay safe.

About the Campground:
The campground sits right on the shore of Lake Naknek about a 1/4mi from the Lodge and the beach where most of the floatplanes land so best to pack your gear in a backpack or other easily portable device. As others have mentioned the campground is surrounded by an electric fence. There are well-ventilated pit toilets and a food-locker/gear cache to keep everyone safe. Campsites are well-spaced out with a reasonable amount of cover. We camped nearest to the beach and had a lovely view of the lake from our tent. Mosquitos are thick here as everywhere in Alaska so be sure to bring headnets and bugspray. We later camped at Wonder Lake and actually found the bugs to be thicker at Brooks Camp than in Denali! That may have been just our experience though. We reserved our spot online the first day reservations open for the season in early December. You can get more details for 2013 on the NPS website. Would definitely recommend reserving early to guarantee your spot.

About the transportation:
We traveled to King Salmon from Anchorage via Alaska Airlines and then to Brooks Camp with Katmai air. This made the most sense for us since we were coming from Anchorage and Katmai was the first destination in our trip. The downside to this is missing out on some scenery flying from Anchorage at commercial altitudes and trying to make connections in King Salmon. You basically have no guaranteed flight-times with Katmai Air. They weigh you and your stuff and figure out how to get all the people and things to Brooks in the fewest number of flights possible. This might mean you get off your plane in King Salmon and straight onto your floatplane to Katmai or it might mean you wait an hour or more while other people get shuttled there first. Would plan on spending a couple of nights at Brooks either way so you aren't stressing if you get into camp later or have to leave earlier than you originally intended. If you can book directly through a private float-plane operator like Rust's that would be ideal but many won't take you all the way from Anchorage and given it was our first trip to Alaska we preferred the safety of booking online through a commercial airline to calling a private service we'd never heard of.

A few tips:
The lodge doesn't restrict it's amenities from the campers. You can enjoy the lobby with large indoor firepit for free. You can also use their public flush toilets if you get tired of the pit toilets at the campground. Showers are available for a fee. And you can enjoy drinks from the bar or meals from the cafeteria for exactly the same price as lodge guests.

If you're travelling to Alaska and trying to decide whether visiting Katmai is worth it, the answer is "Definitely yes!" But you can save yourself some money staying at the campground and make sure you give yourself a few days to really take it all in. You won't regret it!

Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
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18 Thank gatorfan2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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34 reviews from our community

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English first
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
52 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
Reviewed September 21, 2011

Wow. You really do see a lot of bears at Brooks camp. Not just at the falls or downstream, but on the beach, on the trails, wandering through the grounds. The one place you can pretty much guarantee NOT to see bears is on the actual campground as it is surrounded by an electric fence. But you can walk the camp trail or the stretch of beach next to the trail and you will see bears for sure. We thought we may not see too many in September, but thankfully, we were wrong.

We went for 2 nights September 13th and 14th. This is the advice I would offer:

Do the Valley of 10,000 Smokes tour if you're willing to hike down into the valley. The drive is quite spectacular at times (we saw 2 bull moose and a bald eagle on our journey). The hike is pretty and interesting and worth the day out. You get back to camp by 4pm which still gives you plenty of time to watch bears (don't worry...you won't miss them).

Camp at the campground, but eat at the lodge. Be prompt, particularly for breakfast which is only served for an hour. The kids working there really shut up shop promptly...they clearly can't wait for their shift to end (a criticism here of Katmailand - customer service should be valued). All meals are buffet style, so no point showing up 5 minutes before closing time.

The campground is safe and cheap. It is 0.3 miles down a trail where you will definitely encounter bears at least once. Don't worry - you are given a 'Bear etiquette' class which will teach you that if you back off the trail (arms raised, speaking calmly), the bear will pay you no attention. The campground has a 2 room shed, 1 room for food, 1 room for other gear, so as not to encourage the curious bear. The toilets are pit toilets and surprisingly clean and unsmelly. Bathroom tissue a'plenty. (There are some flushing toilets near the lodge too :)) There are also lean-to's with picnic tables for you to eat in comfort if it's raining.

Brooks camp is not a place to come to if you don't like being outside. If you do, there's enough to keep you occupied. When we weren't watching bears, we were walking up and down the beach, walking over to Brooks Falls, or hiking up Dumpling Mountain (just hike to the overlook - the view there is spectacular, and we're told the view is not so good the rest of the way).

Be prepared to be stuck at the bridge should you cross it to view bears (you'll cross it to go to Brooks Falls, the valley tour, or to view bears from the best vantage point downstream). If a bear is within 50 ft of the bridge, you cannot cross. I found this rather strange actually. The rangers monitored the bridge and the trail from the bridge very tightly and were strict, and yet you could get within 5 feet of a bear elsewhere because there were areas not monitored at all. I guess maybe because the bridge crosses a major feeding area and no one wants the bears routine disrupted.

Anyway...all in all, worth it. Don't go for just one day - if it is super windy, the float plane will not be able to get you to Brooks and you will miss out entirely. And you don't want that. You want to get there, see some bears, meet some great people and chat around the fire in the lodge with a nice glass of wine in your hand.

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  • Stayed September 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
15 Thank RachaelAdams
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Palm Beach, Florida
Level Contributor
121 reviews
62 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 151 helpful votes
Reviewed September 24, 2010

Something of a once in lifetime experience. I’ve never been so close to so many really big bears. We enjoyed the whole experience immensely. With the exception of the girl working the counter at the trading post, all the rangers and lodge employees were exceptionally nice and helpful. Glad we went in September since I don’t think I would have liked the bugs of early summer.

We stayed two nights. The lodging was was expensive and somewhat minimalist. I think there may be approximately 35 cabins and lodge rooms. The lodge rooms are in a single building detached from the bar and dining room. This building has about five or six rooms on each side. Minimal sound insulation between rooms. The remainder of the lodging units are individual cabins. If I had it to do again, I would have asked for one of the cabins since I think the rate is the same.

Food at the buffet was very good (a surprise). There is often fog on the lake in the morning. We didn't have any problem when we left but the people leaving the day before were delayed about four hours (we would have missed our airline connection if we would have left on that day). I will probably never go back but am so glad that I finally got around to going to Brooks camp.

  • Stayed September 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
7 Thank accidental_squirrel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston, TX
Level Contributor
10 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 52 helpful votes
Reviewed September 13, 2009

For anyone planning to come to Katmai, there is no reason camping shouldn't be seriously considered as one of your options. Truth be told, I do not do a lot of camping, but with cabin rates of $750/night, and campsite rates of $8/person/night, it frankly was a fairly easy decision, even taking into account the cost of the camping equipment we rented in Anchorage.

Campsite reservations can be made starting in early January, and since we were interested in traveling to Katmai during peak bear viewing season at Brooks Falls (July), we made our reservations within a few days after they were made available. This was necessary because reservations fill fast and you might not get what you want or need otherwise. However, even with the reservations being full, when we arrived at Brooks Camp we did not at all get the impression that it was crowded and in fact we had our choice of a number of different cleared areas to set up our tent.

Upon our arrival to Brooks, a ranger very helpfully explained all of the information and rules that we needed to know for our camping, and we were given a cart to help carry our luggage approximately 1/2 mile to the campsites. The campsites themselves are surrounded by an electric fence, and there are gear and food caches for you to store all of the appropriate items. There is running potable water and pit toilets, so life was made a little easier for us to survive in such a remote setting. Not to mention the meals that are served at Brooks Lodge, which while a little pricey (what do you expect for a lodge out in the middle of nowhere), were actually quite good and we were pleasantly surprised at the quality and selection of what was served.

Our time at Brooks Camp and Brooks Falls was an incredible experience (almost to the point that the amount of bears around made it surreal). And staying overnight allows you to take an excellent tour to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, which is a very unique area to see and explore.

  • Stayed July 2009, traveled with friends
    • Value
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    • Rooms
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Helpful?
15 Thank Raspy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bad Gandersheim
Level Contributor
6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed August 21, 2009

This was the best part of our Alaska-trip. Expensive flights but a must-do. Stayed for two nights on the Campground. Simple but a real alascan feeling. We loved the bears. They were everywhere. (Mosquitos too.) GREAT!

  • Stayed July 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank smei1977
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hillsboro, Oregon
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed August 3, 2008

The campground is about a 1.5 mile walk from the Falls, and everytime we took the walk it was an adventure. We always had bears along the way, and the view of the Naknek Lake beach along the way, the bay, the floatplanes, and the curious bears are something which the Lodge visitors probably don't take in as much. The camp is surrounded by a flimsy electrical fence, but apparently this is enough. According to the rangers, there was only one bear entry into the camp the year before we stayed there. The bears are really not interested in the humans that are around. There is a central gear and food cache, so the bears don't associate the people/campground with food/toys. If you don't have a problem camping, this place is $8 per night / per person- a bargain compared to the outrageous $300 per night / per person at the lodge. Unless you're filthy rich or really concerned about sleeping outside with bears nearby, there is absolutely no excuse to sleep at the lodge. The camp has toilets and potable water, and you can shower at the lodge for $7.

  • Liked — Cheap accomodation for an amazing Alaskan experience
  • Disliked — Nothing
  • Stayed July 2008, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
Helpful?
7 Thank eg2000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level Contributor
85 reviews
77 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 166 helpful votes
Reviewed July 18, 2008

Spent 3 nights here. This campsite is amazing. You can pitch up almost on the beach front, with bears roaming just feet away from you (the other side of a small electric fence) The view across the lake is gorgeous and it is peaceful. The site is about quarter of a mile from the Lodge where you can get meals, a bar and a shower (plus a shop in the daytime that also sells white gas) . The site has drinking water, picnic areas with fire rings and food/fuel/gear caches so you don't attract bears in. The vault toilets were new, spotless and odourless. I think the caches and toilets were all new this season. i think we paid about $8 a night, compared to goodness knows how many hundreds to stay in the Lodge cabins. Brooks is out of this world and you really need to come for 3 nights or more to get the benefit so camping is a good cheap way to do this.

  • Liked — Location on the beach, and the bears!
  • Disliked — quite a lot of mosquitoes once the wind dropped
  • Stayed June 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank LondonKazza
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Brooks Camp

Property: Brooks Camp
Address: Katmai National Park and Preserve, AK 99613-0007
Location: United States > Alaska > Katmai National Park and Preserve
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 6 Specialty Lodging in Katmai National Park and Preserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 16
Also Known As:
Brooks Camp Hotel Katmai National Park And Preserve
Brooks Camp Alaska/Katmai National Park And Preserve

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